Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, Freer Gallery of Art
1050 Independence Ave. S.W.
Kit Brooks, The Japan Foundation Assistant Curator of Japanese Art
Sol Jung, The Shirley Z. Johnson Assistant Curator of Japanese Art
Members of the media can contact Jennifer Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to schedule a time to speak with the curator and tour the exhibition.
Across three galleries, “Feathered Ink” explores how Japanese artists have experimented over several centuries with different brush techniques in their depictions of birds. Drawing from the Freer Gallery of Art’s extensive collection of bird-and-flower paintings, the exhibition includes hanging scroll paintings, folding screens, ceramics and printed books.
In Japan, paintings on the theme of birds and flowers began to appear during the Heian period (794–1185) as a way of referencing seasonal associations, auspicious homonyms or replicating the natural world in remarkable detail. Depicting a variety of bird species in naturalistic or paradisiacal environments offers a tantalizing opportunity for artists to showcase their skills through the use of virtuosic ink brushwork techniques to represent different feather types and the textures of plumage and foliage. Adding colors can provide further layers of symbolic meaning and decorative effect. Birds are also popular motifs found on early modern Japanese ceramics, rendered through inlaid slip designs, molding and polychrome pigments. Some of the vessels in this exhibition even provide a glimpse into how Japanese potters emulated the painterly effects of ink on clay surfaces.
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